Combat is ugly. Violence perpetrated on another human being, particulary when delivered with enough force to kill is hard to watch. Sometimes violence is evil, sometimes violence protects us from evil, sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference.
In a misguided attempt to make lethal force less lethal New York legislators have proposed a law (A02952) to change “how a police officer responds when he believes he must use his gun to defend himself or another, or to apprehend a suspect who is resisting arrest. It requires the officer to use his weapon with the intent to stop, rather than to kill such a person”
The proposed law will include a definition of felony manslaughter as “a police officer or peace officer who kills a person by use of a loaded weapon, for a purpose otherwise justified by law, with the intent to kill, rather than stop, such person, and beyond the minimal amount of force necessary to stop the person.”
The memo from the State Assembly gives some examples to help determine whether a police officer is intending to kill or stop an offender:
There is no justification for terminating another’s life when a less extreme measure may accomplish the same objective. For example, an officer would have to try to shoot a suspect in the arm or the leg. The bill will not penalize a good faith effort to shoot with this intent, even though the shot may prove fatal. Further, the number of times an officer shoots a person should not exceed the minimal number necessary to stop the person. If one shot accomplishes the purpose, it is neither necessary or appropriate for an officer to empty his barrel.
The idea that a police officer should be trained to respond to an armed confrontation with a single well placed bullet into the arm or leg of an offender is absurd. To suggest that an officer who uses more force than this could be a felon is frightening. Not only is it apparant that the authors of this bill know nothing of armed combat, the last sentence on when it is “appropriate for an officer to empty his barrel” shows they lack a basic understanding of firearms.
The warriors reading this far do not need any further commentary – you can see the folly and are either furious or in disbelief over this proposed law, but it is not uncommon for civilians to respond to police involved shootings with the question this bill poses, “Why not just shoot the guy in the arm or leg?” An issue addressed early in police or military training, but deserving of an answer for the many without benefit of that kind of training or experience.
According to Force Science News, here is why shooting to wound doesn’t make sense scientifically, legally or tactically:
- Hands and arms can be the fastest-moving body parts. An average suspect can move his hand and forearm across his body to a 90-degree angle in 12/100 of a second, his hand from hip to shoulder height in 18/100 of a second.
- The average officer pulling the trigger as fast as he can requires 1/4 second to discharge each round.
- There is no way an officer can react, track, shoot and reliably hit a threatening suspect’s forearm or a weapon in a suspect’s hand in the time spans involved.
- Even if the suspect held his weapon arm steady, the suspect and his weapon are seldom stationary. Plus, the officer himself may be moving as he shoots, so an accurate hit would be unlikely.
- The upper arms move more slowly, but there’s a greater chance you’re going to hit the brachial artery or center mass with a high probability of fatality.
- Legs tend initially to move slower than arms, however, areas of the lower trunk and upper thigh are rich with vascularity, again a higher probability of fatality.
- If an officer manages to take a suspect’s legs out non-fatally, that still leaves the offender’s hands free to shoot. His ability to threaten lives hasn’t necessarily been stopped.
Police officers are trained to deliver as many rounds into the “center mass” of the target as necessary to neutralize the threat. This is the most effective way to stop the offender and the best way to ensure that the officer will survive. It is true that this target area does bring the greatest likelihood of a fatal wound, but the death of the suspect is not the objective; stopping the threat, protecting others and the survival of the officer are.
An expertly placed round fired into the gun-hand of a villain followed by his hasty surrender may look great on TV, but it is reckless and dangerous to expect it from police officers in the real world.
The next post will consider this question from the Christian perspective. Can the use of deadly force be reconciled with the Biblical Commandment?
Thou shalt not kill
Exodus 20:13 (KJV)